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Renewables overtake fossil fuels in Europe for first time

  • Publish Date: Posted 6 months ago
  • Author: Jamal Niaz

​​In what has been described as a ‘landmark moment’ in Europe’s aim to combat climate change, renewables have officially overtaken fossil fuels in Europe.

According to Ember and Agora Energiewende’s fifth annual report tracking Europe’s electricity transition, 2020 saw renewables generate 38% of the continent's electricity in comparison to 37% from fossil fuels.

This was a growth of around 4% from 2019 for renewables, with wind generation rising by 9% and solar generation by 15% in 2020. Since 2015, wind and solar generation respectively have been responsible for all renewable growth in Europe, since bioenergy growth has stalled and hydro generation remains unchanged.

Dave Jones, senior electricity analyst at Ember stated:

“Rapid growth in wind and solar has forced coal into decline but this is just the beginning. Europe is relying on wind and solar to ensure not only coal is phased out by 2030, but also to phase out gas generation, replace closing nuclear power plants, and to meet rising electricity demand from electric cars, heat pumps and electrolysers”

The UK, Germany and Spain also celebrated this milestone as individual nations with renewables overtaking fossil fuels, as well as the UK enjoying its greenest year ever.

Despite the growth in the use of renewables, it still remains slow in terms of the targets that are still to reach. Wind and solar generation need to almost triple if Europe is to reach its 55% greenhouse gas reductions by the aim of 2030 and hit climate neutrality by 2050.

In order to achieve this, Ember states that Europe will need to add 100TWH (terawatt hours) of renewable generation each year to achieve its 2030 target, which would be nearly twice as much each year as the amount added in 2020.

Patrick Graichen, director of Agora Energiewende added:

“Post-pandemic economic recovery must not slow down climate action. We therefore need strong climate policy such as in the Green Deal—to ensure steady progress.”

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